Small-Time Crooks (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Woody Allen returns to the kind of movies that he used to do. Woody heads a gang of the world's dumbest crooks. This character is essentially his famous Virgil Starkwell of Take the Money and Run, the inept petty criminal, now thirty years older, having served his time and failed in the straight life as miserably as he did in crime. He formulates a plan to tunnel into a bank from an adjacent store front. Woody explains that it must be a great plan because in prison they used to call him The Brain. His associates claim, "that was sarcastic", but Woody is convinced it was sincere. His friends do concede that he's the smartest dishwasher they know. He's certainly a lot smarter than his associates. While they are drilling, Michael Rapaport wears the miner's hat backwards because it's more stylish, thereby pointing the light behind him.

In order to avoid suspicion, Woody has his wife run a real cookie shop upstairs - and they get rich by accident when the bakery turns into a monumental success.

The real humor of the piece lies in Woody's brilliant dialogue, especially at the beginning and ending, and a great cast including Elaine May, the gifted comic talent who rarely appears in movies.

I don't think any critics mentioned Woody's tribute to Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden in the opening and closing scenes. The Woody character interacts with his wife exactly as Ralph and Alice would, the only difference being that Woody's get-rich-quick scheme is criminal. Woody even brandishes his tiny fists at her throughout the opening in the kitchen/sitting area of their tiny New York apartment wth a two-seat table, while he repeats dialogue like "just once ....". Like Alice, she's obviously not threatened.

The final line of dialogue in the film is "baby, you're the greatest", followed by a hug, in an exact clone of the classic Honeymooners ending.

In the set-up phase of the film, I really enjoyed the complete ineptitude of the gang. Their botched attempt at the crime was one of the funniest pieces in the film.


none. rated PG.
Anyway, when they abandon the bank heist and finally hit it big in the cookie biz, they end up with franchises, and get richer than they ever dreamed of, but Woody hates the successful life. He has an antique from "Louis XIV or Louis XV. I don't know how high the Louie's go, but it was from one of the top Louie's". Woody hates going to museums ("too many pictures of virgins"). His wife took the priceless "undefined Louis" antique and built in a television, and that seems to match pretty well with her lighted Oriental rug - the amazing achievement of "fiber optics".

DVD info from Amazon.

Nice transfer of a slickly filmed movie. Anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16x9.

no significant features - a trailer and some written notes and bios

Woody's wife (Tracy Ullman), on the other hand, likes her new world, and wants to get some manners and act like a rich woman. She is swept away by a guy who says things like "nor have I". Hugh Grant, in a perfect casting choice, is a sophisticated guy who could use some money. Woody's wife wants the sophistication, has the money, and is ripe for Grant's con. The characterizations by Ullman and Grant are fine, but I thought the film dwelled too long on the scenes with those two, which were the most boring part of the movie.

Woody realizes she's moving away from him and misses his small-time cons. After a few plot twists, he gets a chance at another ...

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: between two and a half and three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 77.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Only 61% positive overall, and 58% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: consistent with the critics, IMDb voters score it 6.8, Apollo users 80/100.
  • With their dollars ... it did okay - $17 million domestic gross on about 900 screens. With foreign, rentals, and other rights, it will make money. Typical Woody film performing well for a small but loyal audience.

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